At a glance
2015-16 Record: 22-10 overall, 14-8 GPAC (T-4th); national qualifier
Head Coach: Drew Olson (248-88, 10 years; 8 national tournament appearances; 4 GPAC regular-season/tournament titles)
Returning Starters: Brenleigh Daum (Jr.); Mary Janovich (Jr.); Shelby Quinn (Sr.); Quinn Wragge (So.)
Other Key Returners: Aubri Bro (Sr.); Devin Edwards (Sr.); Sydney Feller (Jr.); Laurel Krohn (Sr.); Erin Vieselmeyer (Sr.)
Key Newcomers: Dani Andersen (transfer from Midland); Colby Duvel; Maggie Goltz; Philomena Lammers
Key Loss: Becky Mueller
2015-16 GPAC All-Conference: Quinn Wragge (first team); Mary Janovich (second team); Becky Mueller (honorable mention); Shelby Quinn (honorable mention)
Nearly all key contributors, including four starters, return from last season’s national tournament qualifier. This program remains one of the best in the nation at the NAIA level and is in rock solid shape entering the 11th season of head coach Drew Olson’s tenure at his alma mater. Even in somewhat of a rebuilding campaign, the 2015-16 Bulldogs won 22 games.
More will be expected this time around as the program leans upon budding stars Mary Janovich and Quinn Wragge. While Janovich is still regaining confidence in the ACL she tore last season, Concordia is better positioned than it was this time a year ago.
“It’s night and day,” Olson said. “We’re way further along than we were last year. We were trying to find our identity after losing so many key players. This year we have 11 returning varsity kids. There’s no transition. We’re ready to go this season. Adding the freshmen to the mix helps us even more.”
Wragge, a native of Crofton, Neb., adapted seamlessly to the college game. She really took off in the second half of last season while earning MVP honors at the Concordia Invitational Tournament before going for a game high 24 points in the national tournament loss to Goshen College (Ind.), an eventual national semifinalist.
Wragge averaged 14.8 points and 6.6 rebounds and was the team’s only player to start all 32 games in 2015-16. The scary thing? She’s expected to be improved as a sophomore.
“She’s even better,” Olson said. “The thing with Quinn is she still doesn’t know how good she can actually be. We expect a lot out of her this season. She’s getting better every single day. I think it has more to do with confidence. She’s realizing what she’s capable of. The more aggressive she gets the better she’s going to be. We’re expecting a lot of things out of her.”
A 5-foot-7 guard from Gretna, Janovich garnered second team all-conference recognition as a sophomore despite sitting out the final 14 games of the season. The Bulldogs missed her for so many reasons beyond the obvious. Sure Janovich can score, but she’s also the biggest pest in regards to the team’s pressure defense and is one of the team’s best passers. She showed some tentativeness in her first action back from the torn ACL, but has rounded into form in plenty of time for the season.
Quinn and Janovich are the household names for a program that has made a home in the national polls. It’s been more than five years since Concordia found itself outside of the top 25. Senior guard Laurel Krohn, one of many role players, says the team is comfortable with lofty expectations.
“I don’t think the outside pressure is overwhelming,” Krohn said. “We probably put the most pressure on ourselves. We have great expectations for this season. We have a standard that we hold ourselves to. We do what we do every day and let those other things take care of themselves.”
Krohn is one of six seniors on the roster. All of them figure to see action within a frenetic system that promotes liberal substituting in order to maximize the team’s up-tempo style. Of those seniors, guard Shelby Quinn held down the largest role last season. She started 25 games and averaged 7.5 points and 3.1 assists. Olson knows what he’s going to get from the Bellevue native: reliability.
Fellow senior Erin Vieselmeyer, a Holyoke, Colo., native flashes big potential in the post. Standing 6-foot-1, Vieselmeyer worked her way up the ladder after two years playing junior varsity. She tallied 13 points in last season’s national tournament game. The rest of the senior class is made up of max effort players like guard Devin Edwards, forward Carissa Gutz and sniper wing Aubri Bro.
Says Olson of the seniors, “I love those six. They’re kids that just keep grinding and keep finding ways to get into the lineup. They are tough kids. They find ways to win and they battle every single day.”
Janovich headlines a junior group that includes volume shooter Brenleigh Daum and rock steady Sydney Feller. Daum started all but three games last season and averaged 8.4 points per game. Feller provides another outside shooting option and was one of the squad’s best players in terms of taking care of the ball.
“I think this group is really deep, talented and relies on each other,” Krohn said. “That’s going to be important again this year. We have essentially the same girls back with just a few losses. I just think the group last year had to grow up really fast and has matured even more this year.”
We haven’t yet mentioned the group of newcomers, which includes transfer Dani Andersen, who can play point guard or off the ball. Andersen sat out last season after making the move from Midland to Concordia. She averaged 9.0 points in 2014-15 as a starter for the Warriors. A junior eligibility wise, she simply adds to the program’s embarrassment of riches.
“She’s a phenomenal shooter,” Olson said. “She can go off for big numbers in some games. When you have to sit out a full season you have a different outlook. I think Dani has that. It’s a confidence. It’s refreshing. I think she knows why she’s playing. I think other people feed off of that. I think she’s going to be a phenomenal point guard for us this year and give us a little bit more scoring than we’ve had in the past.”
Then there’s the highly-touted freshman class. Three rookies in particular are making waves this preseason: 5-foot-9 forward Colby Duvel (Max, Neb.), 6-foot-1 forward Maggie Goltz (Falls City, Neb.) and 5-foot-11 forward Philomena Lammers (Omaha, Neb.). In recent seasons, some of Olson’s teams lacked a dominant presence inside. The first-year group brings plenty of size – and the trio of Duvel, Goltz and Lammers likes to go to work.
Olson has called Lammers a “beast inside.” Adds Krohn of the freshmen, “I think Philly will contribute a lot. Maggie and Colby are also playing really well while trying to figure out what their roles are on this team. All of them play hard and really fit in with what the program wants to do.”
Now the most difficult job for Olson may simply be figuring out the right rotations and lineup configurations. There will be no shortage of options. Concordia possesses a nice mix of ball handlers, shooters, experience and better size. The expectations are understandably high.
SEASON OPENER: Concordia tips off the 2016-17 season with a trip to Denver, Colo., for a game each day, Oct. 28-29. On day one, the Bulldogs will test themselves against defending NAIA Division II national champion Marian University (Ind.). Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m. CT.